This is not a post about what does or doesn’t make a strong female character. This is not a post about what exactly “girl power” is, or if you can have it if you wear makeup/don’t wear makeup/like boys/don’t like boys, etc. This is only about my one highly personal test of whether or not I want to read a book with a female protagonist.
Even though I have a submissions wishlist, like all agents, I am happy to see anything that even remotely fits my submission guidelines. Within these guidelines, I have certain genre likes and dislikes, but I give just about everything that comes in the submission pile a read. Given that there’s only one of me and I read everything that comes in the pile, I’ve developed some quick and dirty rules for what I want to pursue further.
When reading a book with a female protagonist of any age, I want to have one of two reactions:
- I want to go to the mall with her!
- I want her on my side in a fight!
That’s it. We can debate all day about what it means for a female character to be strong and likeable, but I don’t really focus a lot on either of those two definitions. I just go with how the protagonist fits into one or more of my above categories. If she fits one definition, that’s great. If she fits two, even better. If she doesn’t fit either, the book is not for me.
Examples of female characters I want to go to the mall with, but don’t want on my side in a fight:
Examples of female characters I want on my side in a fight, but don’t want to go to the mall with:
- Tris Prior
- Amy Dunne
- Katniss Everdeen
Examples of characters I want on my side in a fight and then go to the mall with when the fight is over:
- Frankie Landau-Banks
- Princess Elisa of Orvalle
- Hermione Granger